The Seth Jones Draft — Part 2: The Hypocrisy


If you haven't, make sure to read Part 1 of The Seth Jones Draft  from Dillon Friday, where he discusses the stereotype played out on our televisions.

“You watch hockey? Man, that’s that white boy s***!”

In the early '90s as the Chicago Bulls were taking the basketball world by storm, this little black kid in one of the roughest housing projects in New York City spent many a spring weeknight listening to the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the radio. We didn’t have cable at home, and because the games weren’t on broadcast TV, there were only two ways to keep up with the games: local tabloids and radio. I listened to Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr lead their Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups and seemed to be one of the 15 people outside of Canada that remembers when Montreal won the Cup in 1993 – Canada’s last.

If you were driving on the New York Thruway mid-afternoon on June 14, 1994, it was the only time you would have ever seen 30+ black and Latino sixth graders chanting, “LET’S GO, RANGERS!” on a school bus returning from Rye Playland. Horns were honked in support, teachers were slightly confused and the spirit was infectious. This was all led by me as I was so excited  about the upcoming Game 7 that I even wrote a rap theme that somehow rhymed the great name of Jeff Beukeboom.

The NHL followed me into high school and my move from the Bronx to the Harlem section of Manhattan in 1997. In those days, however, the closest I ever got to the sport itself was senior year as part of Bronx High School of Science Gym Period 4 World Floor Hockey Champions. I wished I was the black and much smaller Brian Leetch.

I was one of a handful of minority students who happily admitted staying up to watch Brett Hull do this. (My best friend and NY Amsterdam News scribe, Stephon Johnson, and I have mocked that moment from that next morning for 16 years.) Whenever I brought up hockey, I got looks from most of my non-white friends because, well, hockey was a bunch of white guys fighting and hitting a black puck. Strange thing, though, was that another historically white sport started to get attention among the black community at the same time.

Since winning the 1997 Masters, African-American sports fans have tuned en masse to watch Tiger Woods don the Sunday red Nike polo. It’s been this way since he arrived on the scene, with hopes and dreams that he would be the beginning of a “takeover” of golf. “We run the NBA. We run the NFL. We run baseball. We run everything we touch.” That was a common statement as Woods’ dominance began, “and we’re gonna run golf, too!” So many sweater vests, colorful pants, clubs, bags, balls and tees were purchased by not only the new fans, but those who wanted their kids to strive for a sport that benefited greatly from Woods’ arrival.

After Tiger, there hasn’t been another “Cablanasian” or black-identifying golfer of significance to follow. There have been wunderkinds and feel-good stories, pretenders and fewer contenders, but none of them looked like Tiger … or me. Unfortunately, it’s taken the stupidity of Sergio Garcia and George O’Grady for some people to notice the racial barriers that never came down and the racism that the PGA has done next to nothing to stop.

Yet, many black sports fans still watch.

Golf is one of the most compelling pursuits in sports, yet remains one of the least diverse and accessible in comparison to its counterparts. Since Tiger still moves the meter for the PGA, it provides something to latch on to for fans of all colors, and certainly for those black fans who would have never watched the game in the first place. Hockey, though, has repeatedly been dismissed by the black community at large in the same way that it was when Jarome Iginla began his Hall of Fame career in Calgary, Anson Carter laced up the skates for Boston or Georges Laraque enforced in Edmonton.

Black fandom in the NHL and hockey as a whole has been discussed in hushed tones and slightly sociological texts throughout the Internet for years (even by yours truly). At least for this Scribe, the most frustrating aspect of the black hockey fan enigma besides having to defend our interests is that others refuse to acknowledge the slow but obvious racial progress.

This past season, 28 players of black descent were on NHL rosters – 21 African-Canadian, six African-American, one Swede of with Kenyan heritage. Quite a few, including Iginla, made contributions to playoff teams this spring, with three of them being members of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. And completely overlooked was that Montreal’s P.K. Subban became the first player of black descent to take home the Norris Trophy for best defenseman.

If he lives up to the hype, Seth Jones will be setting records not only for black NHLers, but defensemen and Americans as a whole. Of course, maybe as everything else in sports these days, it would be unsurprising if some black sports fans don’t realize who Jones is unless he actually signs with Roc Nation Sports. And if that’s what it takes, fine. Yet, even if Jones doesn’t go for the rapper/mascot touted agency, he’s going to be the highest drafted black player, and the possible top pick this weekend should be discussed far more by a community that always looks to break barriers.

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